How to Make Signage Lettering More Effective

Lettering is a key feature of any sign and, to be visually effective, careful consideration needs to be given to the font size, choice of typeface and background colours, font style and sign placement. In this post, we’ll look at each of these aspects to give you an overview of what you need to do when designing your signs.

Letter size
One of the most important design aspects of your sign is the size of the letters that you use. Your choice will determine the distance at which people can accurately read the sign. If the lettering is too small it won’t be seen from far away, if too large it may prevent people from reading it clearly when close up. It is critical, therefore, that you pick a letter height that is appropriate for the distances at which you wish it to be read.

In order to make the right choice, you first need to know where the sign will be placed and find the optimum distance that you want people to be able to read it. As a guide, you should consider increasing the lettering size by around 3 centimetres for every 3 metres the reader is away from the sign. This would mean that that for a sign to be read from 30 metres away, you would want the lettering to be 30 centimetres in height.

Different typefaces
There are unlimited typefaces (font types) you can use for your business signs. Indeed, some companies spend a small fortune having trademarked fonts designed for their own, exclusive use.

Fonts are either serif or sans-serif in style. A serif font is one where some of the letters have a slight curl or projection to make them more decorative and slightly more handwritten. Examples include Times New Roman, Courier and New Century Schoolbook. Sans-serif fonts (sans is French for ‘without’) are letters that lack these embellishments and so are plainer and, supposedly, easier to read. Examples include Ariel, Helvetica and Calibri. Both types of font, are good for general signage.

What are less easy to use in signs are highly cursive or decorative scripts, such as French Script or Edwardian Script. While these can be ideal for depicting particular kinds of brand identities, they aren’t the easiest typefaces to read at a distance. If you choose to use these types of font, the recommendation is that you increase the size beyond what you would for serif and sans-serif fonts.

Typeface colour
There are two colours you need to consider when creating effective lettering for your sign: the colour of the typeface and the colour of its background. The rule is that, for the best visibility, the two colours need to be highly contrasting. Ideally, you need dark letters sitting on top of a lighter background or light letters on a dark background. For example, black lettering on a white background can be read easily, yellow lettering on a white background or dark blue lettering on a dark green background would render your sign unreadable to many.

When choosing colours, you also need to take into consideration the effects of light. Some colours are not too distinguishable in low lighting conditions, so these should not be combined. At the same time, you need to think about reflected light. If your sign has a glossy surface or is placed inside a window, the light it reflects from other sources may impact the way a particular colour is seen. If this affects its readability, then choose a different colour.

Luckily, with modern printing techniques, many signs can be created in almost any colour, so no matter what challenges you face in designing your sign, a suitable solution will be available.

Placing your sign
The ability to read your sign will be affected by where you place it. Its height off the ground, the angle people approach it from and the distance at which they see it will all impact on their ability to read the letters clearly. Consider a business sign on a narrow road, for example. If the sign is flat against the wall and faces directly onto the street, people won’t be able to see it clearly until they get near. Having a sign that projects perpendicular to the street (e.g., think of a traditional pub sign), on the other hand, enables people walking towards the sign to see it from much farther down the street, attracting more people.

Lighting your sign
No matter how large the lettering or well placed the sign, if it is not illuminated, it will only be fully effective during daylight hours. The use of lighting ensures that the letters are visible 24 hours a day and that your sign gets the maximum number of views that it can.

Hopefully, from reading this article, you will have a better understanding of how to use lettering in your signs. You’ll know how to judge the best letter height, how to use contrast to make lettering more visible, understand the difference between various font styles and how this affects readability and know how the positioning and illumination of a sign can make it more effective.

If you need expert assistance in designing your business signage we’ll be happy to help.

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